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Friday, September 21, 2018

Larry Fink — Pundit and Target of Protest

News summary by MFWire's editors

When you're the chief of the world's biggest asset manager, it's hard to avoid talking politics ... and sometimes politics comes to you.

When Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock [profile], took the stage yesterday morning at the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit at the Times Center in New York City, protesters confronted him, Bloomberg and the New York Post. Two women called Fink out for BlackRock's investments in defense contractors, and one of the woman got on stage carrying a poster that read, "Fink! Divest from War. Stop the Killing."

"Stop making a killing on killing!" the other protester shouted.

After the protesters were escorted out, Yahoo Finance editor-in-chief Andy Serwer said, "Well, we live in a democracy," and then interviewed Fink on stage.

Spokespeople for BlackRock pointed out to the Post that most of BlackRock's defense contractor investments are held in index funds whose composition is determined by index providers, not BlackRock, which BlackRock is obligated to follow according to its products' prospectuses and the like (though BlackRock could change which indexes its products follow, of course). Another retort Fink might've used would be that, by remaining invested in such companies, BlackRock can influence them with its big shareholder voice, but it would cede that if it divested.

Meanwhile, on stage at the summit, Fink chimed in on President Trump's brewing trade war with China, CNBC reports.

"In the short run, the United States is a big winner," Fink said. "The greatest problem that I see, and this is what I'm hearing from our clients, is this unilateralism that the United States has been taking."

"The world is probably less economically safe," Fink added, worrying about increasing volatility and a shift in Europe. "The behavior of the United States is leading more and more non-U.S. companies to pivot more towards China." 

Edited by: Neil Anderson, Managing Editor


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